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7/31/2014
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Tesla Cars: 8 Hot Technologies

Tesla Motors' electric vehicles pack plenty of technology breakthroughs. Explore the most innovative features found in these computers on wheels.
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(Source: Tesla Motors)
(Source: Tesla Motors)

Just how much technology does a Tesla electric car deliver? Let's start with over-the-air software upgrades, a 17-inch capacitive touchscreen, and a sophisticated array of computer processors.

In fact, you can think of the vehicles essentially as computers you can drive -- complete with 3G wireless and WiFi connectivity.

It's no wonder the Tesla roadster and the Model S generate plenty of buzz despite their limited sales to date and their high price range (starting at $70,000). The much-anticipated Model X will add an SUV to the company's offerings in 2015. Tesla Motors is expected to sell 35,000 vehicles this year.

In 2017, the company plans to introduce the Model 3, a $35,000 electric vehicle, while rumors abound that Tesla Motors is working on a self-driving car.

We're focusing here on the technology in the cars themselves. But Tesla Motors has a tech-forward approach to everything it does, from the sophisticated robotics in its manufacturing plants to its direct sales strategy, which relies on e-commerce, something that is shaking up the automotive industry. In addition, its groundbreaking supercharger stations, which are designed to let drivers recharge their vehicles in the span of a lunch break, are being built out around the country.

Here are the eight hottest technologies in Tesla Motors' electric vehicles, including a look at what the future might hold. Do you drive a Tesla? If so, tell us what you love (or hate) about it. If you're admiring the vehicles from afar, let us know what intrigues you most. Did we leave any of your favorite Tesla Motors technologies off the list?

Susan Nunziata works closely with the site's content team and contributors to guide topics, direct strategies, and pursue new ideas, all in the interest of sharing practicable insights with our community. Nunziata was most recently Director of Editorial for ... View Full Bio

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David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 1:31:23 PM
Love Me Some Tesla
Truly, I love me some Tesla. If I had $70K to use on a car, I'd buy one. No doubt. I'll also probably be first in line for the Model 3.

But I have to say, for some reason some of this was offputting to me. The 17 inch tablet screen for one thing. The concept of the "computer you drive," too. I know the modern car has crazy amounts of computing equipment in it, too. You can't escape it.

But one thing that has always bothered me about the way we load our cars with computers is that it makes it impossible for the average person to fix, especially at the side of the road.

I just did a slide show about loading cars with even more computers myself, so I'm not naive. It isn't going to stop. But there's something about the way that Musk seems to like the technology over the function that perks my ears the wrong way. I mean, it is a car first. Not a computer first.

I guess that is all marketing and maybe I shouldn't care. but i'd love a version without a tablet console and a little more emphasis on what a car means (room for passengers, range, getting you there comfortably, etc). They seem to take that for granted.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 1:59:37 PM
Re: Love Me Some Tesla
@David: Sad to say I've never had the opportunity to test drive a Tesla myself, though I did get to sit in one and have all the grooviness explained. To your point: "a little more emphasis on what a car means (room for passengers, range, getting you there comfortably, etc). They seem to take that for granted."

It's not so much that they take those things for granted as they've sort of been asked and answered a thousand ways to Sunday in automotive design. While some reviewers did complain that the internrio trim looked a little cheap for a $70,000 car, the overall response to the room, range, getting you there questions have all been extremely positive.

In the case of Tesla, it really is the technology that makes my favorite cartoonist calls his "An Intergalactic Spaceboat of Light and Wonder."

Click here for more on his Tesla observations: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla_model_s

 
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 6:56:28 PM
Re: Love Me Some Tesla
@David' "it impossible for the average person to fix, especially at the side of the road. " My sentiments exactly, not only would the Tesla be difficult to offer your standard road side assistance, you would be limited where you can get help if you go for a cross country trip. Luv the technology, but it may be ahead if its time
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 11:37:22 PM
Re: Love Me Some Tesla
@Mejiac, @Dave: Other than changing a tire, I don't know of any late model cars that can actually be fixed on the side of the road, unless you're talking about simple things like topping off oil. None of which you'd have to worry about in a Tesla because it has no engine...

Also, because of the over-the-air connectivity, many problems can be resovled remotely, without even requiring a service visit. That's what makes them so amazing...it's almost like driving a car that can heal itself.

I know I sound like a true Tesla fangirl, but really the things force us to completely rethink how we approach driving.

You're right the network of service centers still needs a buildout, but here's a list of how many they have so far and their locations, so you'll be all set when you drive that new Tesla of yours :D

http://www.teslamotors.com/findus/service
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
8/4/2014 | 4:14:20 PM
Re: Love Me Some Tesla
@Susan,

Thanks for the feedback, this actually provides a level of confidence of similar car manufacturers providing a good level of service... since with the constant output of Hybrids and electric vehicles providing adequate support is essential to get buy off from the average joe :)
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/5/2014 | 3:48:48 PM
Re: Love Me Some Tesla
@mejiac: What's interesting too is how electric/hybrid vehicles in general, and Teslas in particular, are completely rewriting what it means to be a auto mechanic. Even the word mechanic is a misnomer these days--there's so little that's actually mechanical in these vehicles. These folks are basiclaly having to become software engineers.

I imagine that auto repair people are having to go through a serious learning curve in order to work on these vehicles. I suspect that the days of going to the local auto mechanic may be fading, as we will increasingly need to go back to the automaker's own service centers for any repairs that can't be executed over the air.

It's really flipping around everything we've come to know and accept about automobiles and how they work...
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
8/5/2014 | 4:38:15 PM
Re: Love Me Some Tesla
@Susan,

Thank you for your reply, and it's fair to say that it's a very accurate statement,

I think what'll happen is that, like you mention, people will drive there vehicles to an authorized representative, will plug in to a computer which communicates with the automakers servers to run diagnostics and repairs, so I think the mechanic would probably be following specific and detailed instructions.

This would be similar in the way PCs and Laptops are repaired, that if it's not somethign that a firmware update can fix, then it would be swapping out the parts, which require specific tools and steps to do.

So I guess we can expect for geek squad to start servicing our cars :)
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/6/2014 | 3:06:47 PM
Re: Love Me Some Tesla
@Mejiac: So I guess we can expect for geek squad to start servicing our cars.

Ha! Very true. And maybe they'll even make house calls...
nomii
IW Pick
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
8/25/2014 | 1:23:22 PM
Re: Love Me Some Tesla
@Mejiac I agree with you. I believe its time saving in one sense and a comfort level in another. I feel that these kind of vehicles can be repaired remotely even without the intervention of any mechanic. I believe that there will be nodes available where these vehicles can get repaired but I doubt such a big network can easily get established.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
8/25/2014 | 3:23:53 PM
Re: Love Me Some Tesla
@nomii,

 

Correct, but it's not a bad concept at all...and it might be establishing a future trend/standard, but I think that because of the word's dependency on oil.... it won't be any time soon
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/26/2014 | 8:27:52 PM
Re: Love Me Some Tesla
@mejiac: There are too many players with too much $$ invested in Big Oil for this change to happen overnight. Eventually, though, the business will shift and once it's seen that there is also money to be made in this new vehicle paradigm things will fall into place. I hope the kind of network we're talking about here for service and charging stations will become ubiquitous in our lifetimes.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
7/31/2014 | 2:36:26 PM
Tesla
There's talk today that Tesla may build a big new battery factory in the US in Nevada. More on this after Tesla releases earnings. Do you actually see Teslas in the wild in SF?
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
7/31/2014 | 5:01:39 PM
Re: Tesla
>Do you actually see Teslas in the wild in SF?

All the time. I haven't kept track but I'd bet I see at least one every day.

What's more, the infrastructure is starting to adapt. Many garages downtown have stalls reserved for electric cars.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 7:00:00 PM
Re: Tesla
@Thomas- Agreed. I'd even go so far as to say the best spaces in the city are reserved for electric cars. they are usually the spots next to those reserved for disabled and in some family oriented places for pregnant women. 

Not everywhere will be able to adapat as easily but SF has easily created the needed infrastructure and social acceptance.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 11:39:57 PM
Re: Tesla
@David: San Francisco Bay Area is highly motivated to support Tesla--their headquarters are in Fremont, CA, just acros the Bay from SF. I don't know if other metro areas have incentivized electric car drivers as much as we have here. It will be interesting to see if those special parking and HOV privilieges start to fade as more and more people make the switch to electric vehicles of all kinds.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 11:25:13 PM
Re: Tesla
@Thomas: That's true, and if you drive any kind of electric car in the Bay Area you are allowed to use the HOV lanes, even when you are driving in the car by yourself.

Tesla opened its 100th Supercharger Station in Hamilton, NJ (of all places) back in April, those are the stations that enable you to charge up quickly. This is its 100th worldwide and 86th in North America.

according to Tesla: The network is already robust enough to support long-distance drives on the most popular routes across America, whether it be a cross country trip from Los Angeles to New York, an East Coast jaunt from Rhode Island to the southern tip of Florida, or an epic 12,000-mile journey to every corner of the United States.

And that groovy 17-inch dashboard monitor makes it easy to locate a charging station.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 11:19:53 PM
Re: Tesla
@Laurianne: Yep, that battery factory is going to be key to their ability to deliver the Model 3. And, yes, I see Teslas (Tesli?) on the roads here, in fact just saw one driving around Berkeley tonight. My first Tesla sighting was actually on the highway in NJ, actually.
tekedge
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tekedge,
User Rank: Moderator
7/31/2014 | 6:38:25 PM
Wanted to admire the Tesla
I really was excited when I heard about Tesla and wanted to see the looks of one. I must admit look wise I was a bit disappointed with Tesla.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 11:29:52 PM
Re: Wanted to admire the Tesla
@tekedge: I know what you mean. My perfect car would have the technology of a Tesla and the looks of a MINI Cooper.

While the Model S probably could have better looks to stand out from the rest of the sedan pack, there are design features (and color options) that make it distinctive. The one I'm drooling about, though, is the Tesla roadster. That's the first Tesla I ever saw in the wild and I came home raving about this amazing car I'd just seen zoom past me on the highway that looked like it had a "T" on the back...and so began my love affair with Tesla.

Check out the image gallery and tell me what you think of these beauties:

http://www.teslamotors.com/roadster/gallery

 

 
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
8/1/2014 | 6:31:02 AM
Re: Wanted to admire the Tesla
As a Tesla fun, I do love this post - it summarized these key technologies very well. The key point is that, Tesla made not just a car but a moving computer. This is a fundamental change from conceptual level. The current problem is that, Tesla's product line is not so abundant yet - in other words, it needs to enlarge its fleet to gain more interest and market share.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/1/2014 | 1:36:26 PM
Re: Wanted to admire the Tesla
@LiTan: Thanks, and you're right, there is a lot the company needs to do from a business and manufacturing standpoint. They are also facing challenges in U.S. state markets, where there are legal restrictions preventing automakers from selling direct to consumers--they have to sell thru franchised dealerships, and Tesla is trying to change how that business gets done. The company is getting resistance and possibly facing legal challenges in many U.S. states.

Another issue standing in their way is battery availability and cost...they need more than they can currently buy and until there's lithium ion battery availability for them on mass scale they're going to remain a niche player.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 10:12:33 PM
pricing
"Do you drive a Tesla?"
Nope, but I would love to. The Model S is a thing of beauty,
Anyhow, I wonder if the upcoming Model 3 will also have the tax credit of $7,500


Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 11:43:24 PM
Re: pricing
@mak63: I'm not an expert on the tax credit thing, but I'm pretty sure that is a Federal tax benefit to anyone who buys any kind of electric or hybrid vehicle, so I imagine that will be available for the $35K as well. I sure hope so, because I know I'm saving up my money...In fact, i made the decision to be carless until 2017 when I plan to be one of the first people in line to buy one of  those.

 
teslaliving
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teslaliving,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/1/2014 | 7:59:08 AM
Tesla feedback
Since you asked, I have a lot of thoughts on the features/technology in the Model S which I cover here in my blog:

http://teslaliving.wordpress.com

I'd never want to give it up and love the car but there are some really glaring things like lack of a shuffle function in the USB music player, a GPS that has advanced displays but functionality is worse than circa-2007 era cars etc.

The software interface for the Model S isnt evolving as fast as they'd have you believe and they constantly miss dates. Owners are rebooting their consoles periodically to work around things. Just yesterday I had to reboot the big screen just to get the route line back on the GPS map. That was the only thing not working. Thats really odd.

Great car and cool company but still early days in the software and service areas. It sure is a joy to drive though.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/1/2014 | 1:40:22 PM
Re: Tesla feedback
@teslaliving: You may be the first actual Tesla driver to join our discussion, welcome! Good info there...thanks for the blog link. Sounds like you're suffering thru the tech quirks that come with being an early adopter.

How is the 3G/Wifi connectivity?

What do you like most about driving a Tesla?

What do you hate most?
teslaliving
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teslaliving,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/1/2014 | 5:37:53 PM
Re: Tesla feedback
3G is fine. The most use it gets is for the Google maps function and Slacker which I use all the time (mostly because the USB player is useless). Slacker on the Model S is actually really nice.

3G feels bad when you're using the browser but its really not 3G but a terrible browser. That thing needs to go if they're going to keep it. Its a nice perk but either needs to be replaced or deleted.

What I hate most is the USB music player. I used to listen to all my music on MP3 DVDs. There's no DVD or CD player just USB. USB music can't be shuffled. First world problem but its annoying that I cant shuffle in this day and age. 

The NAV system is #2 on the list. Its below the 2007 Acura I came from. Great displays/visuals. Poor navigation/routing. 

I love driving the car the most. Its so smooth, no gears, no shifting, its quick, quiet. Hard to describe. It never gets old. Never worrying about refuelling is nice too. Just plug it in at night like my phone.

They have about 40K units on the road so I wouldnt think thats early adopter but there are periodic reboots needed. Software updates were faster in the first 18 months and have slowed down as Tesla struggles to get 6.0 out while dealing with quirks of international markets.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/5/2014 | 3:42:59 PM
Re: Tesla feedback
@TeslaLiving: That's great info. I'm puzzled by the USB music thing...Are there upgrade options? I can't imagine it would be easy (or even possible) to add an aftermarket sound system into a Tesla. Being a bit of an audio snob I'd definitely want more options for my music--do you happen to know who the OEM is on the audio system?

Maybe Neil Young can get them to add Pono, LOL.

Also, the Nav...What?! that's quite shocking in an era when smartphone apps such as Waze exist that blow away any in-car nav systems I've seen. Perhaps they need to partner with someone on that...

But really, it's about the dirving experience at the end of the day, and your description makes me seriously want to go out on a test drive.

Maybe I can launch a Kickstarter campaign to help fund my purchase of a Tesla...

:)

 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/1/2014 | 1:51:13 PM
Tesla Gigafactory
Here's some international perspective on the Tesla battery factory from our colleagues at EETimes:

Is Tesla's Gigafactory a Gigablunder for Panasonic?
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
8/3/2014 | 5:26:17 PM
Re: Tesla Gigafactory
I think the innovations the Tesla bring are even more valuable that the car itself.  I liked the idea of the touch screen and the app to control various parts of the car remotely.  Now that everyone uses a Smartphone it will be a feature that other car manufactures will envy.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/5/2014 | 3:44:48 PM
Re: Tesla Gigafactory
@Pedro: They really are setting a new benchmark in how we think about automobiles, and the technology in a Tesla is far more compelling to me than anything I've read about driverless cars, for example. I suspect that most automakers are watching Tesla closely, and that these innovations will eventually become de facto standards for vehicles, even if it takes 10 or 20 years.
ThomasM513
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ThomasM513,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/1/2014 | 4:54:44 PM
Great article, but...
You really should have signed up for a test drive before writing the article. It's easy to do and I took a couple of drives before springing for a Model S. 

You'd have learned in a test drive that one doesn't "insert the key" into a Tesla. Like a few other cars, you just need to have the key inside the car, and then pressing on the brake will turn it on so you can put it in gear and go. Also, with the "tech package" you simply put the car in "park" and get out and walk away when you arrive at your destination. The Tesla takes care of itself (shuts down, locks  up, etc.) until you return with the key in your pocket or purse. 

Go get that test drive. But I'm warning you that you might get hooked! 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/5/2014 | 3:36:17 PM
Re: Great article, but...
@ThomasM513: Oh man, I'm so scared to go on a test drive...I might be tempted to cash in my retirement savings to buy one. In all seriousness, thanks for the correction about the key. There is so much about the Teslas that defy our common perceptions about how a car "should" function that it's easy to trip up. I particularly enjoy explaining to people that the tesla motor has only one moving piece, unlike typical combustion engines.

Tell me more about your test drive so I can live vicariously.

Did you end up buying one??
teslaliving
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teslaliving,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/5/2014 | 4:12:00 PM
Re: Great article, but...
I'd encourage anyone wanting to test drive to go for it. There's no cost and there's no requirements and you dont get a hard sales pitch like you do at a dealer. If you want to live vicariously, here's my experience from back when I did the test drive:

http://teslaliving.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/the-test-drive/

 

 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
8/6/2014 | 3:03:27 PM
Re: Great article, but...
@Teslaliving: Thanks for sharing that. i'm so going to book a test drive now. and I love that you got to pick up your test vehicle at a store in the mall. Talk about an unusal test drive experience.

This is my favorite part of your post:
  • I found out for test drives they software limit the vehicle to 80 mph max. He explained that it accelerates so fast test drivers were getting tickets. No comment on how that topic came up :p

Having almost gotten a speeding ticket when I took my first MINI cooper test drive (the dealer managed to talk the NY State Trooper out of it, bless him) I can totally relate.

 
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